Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America
In a rare meeting of amicable trade partners, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Nashville Predators take the ice at Bridgestone Arena tonight.
The Predator faithful were frightened a touch by the onset of wintry weather and only 16,900+ (about 200 shy of a sellout) came out for Thursday night’s comeback win against the Colorado Avalanche. Look for another sellout streak to begin with the Flyers game as they usually draw well especially on a Saturday night. Limited tickets remain.
Philadelphia has been given much deserved exposure from the HBO sports documentary show “24/7 Rangers-Flyers, The Road to the Winter Classic.” The show highlighted two teams that are a formidable force in the Eastern Conference and a well fought game on January 2nd had the Rangers edge the Flyers in a 3-2 win.
This Year’s Series: N/A
Looking at the Flyers: In the off-season, the Flyers were looking to shore up some goaltending issues by bringing in the eccentric and off-kilter philosophic netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Bryzgalov has not lived up to expectation and his back-up, Sergei Bobrovsky is playing a much needed supporting role and playing it well.
The Flyers have some lethal fire power in the form of their top line: Jagr/Giroux/Hartnell. Hartnell leads the Flyers with 19 goals and Giroux leads in points with 49. Another interesting tidbit, the Flyers boast 8 players with 10 or more goals, the Predators….only 2 (5 players with 9 goals).
Looking at the Predators: It was a much needed two points and the Predators had to fight hard to get them Thursday night against the Avalanche. After going down two goals in the first period: one on a giveaway by Rinne and another that ripped through the legs of Rinne, the Predators came back to tie it up on hard-fought Predators-style goals.
Simply shooting the puck more paid huge dividends for the Predators as Legwand tallied 2 goals including the game winner and Sergei Kostitsyn fired a bullet through the legs of a Colorado defender and went top right corner on Giguere for the game-tying goal.
For the Flyers to win: Play a tough game and use the speed and grit that have won them so many games this season to capitalize on Nashville early. It will be a sellout crowd and in a frenzy to welcome back some of the Predators alumni back into the Bridge, but not at the cost of victory.
Bobrovsky is sure to get the call tonight and he’ll have to be sharp with Rinne staring him down from 200 feet away. The top line for the Flyers is dangerous, but what could be Nashville’s undoing is the secondary scoring. Names like Van Riemsdyk, Simmonds, Briere, Timonen, Voracek and Couterier can strike fast and create match-up problems for the young blueline of the Predators.
For the Predators to win: Feed off the crowd and shoot the puck. It has become the battle cry from the stands for the Predators to let loose the puck from their sticks and the Predators answered in the Colorado game. The Kostitsyn goal for example is usually blocked or saved 99% of the time, but just putting it on goal either scores or allows for rebound chances and with Legwand or Hornqvist parked in front, those chances could be cashed in on a regular basis.
Rinne will have to stand on his head tonight as the offensive onslaught of the Flyers is enough to drive most starting goaltenders from the net in the first period. The defense must clear the crease and open up lines of sight for Rinne to track the puck well and keep his glove hand in larceny-mode.
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Stay HardCore, friends